Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Recollections of Love, Food and Healthy Living

As we begin to roll into harvest and I start spending more time in the garden, I can't help but be reminded of my Mom and Dad.  While Dad was responsible for all things 'farm', Mom's domain was the home.  What not everyone realizes, is that 'home' extended far beyond the confines of the house.  It also encompassed a very large garden and all things food related.  As one might anticipate, that included our three squares a day, snacks, picnics and yes, even harvest meals.  Mom not only took care of the garden, helped with the livestock when needed, prepared all the meals, including those meals to the field AND, in between, was my dad's hired hand.  When I think back, it really is amazing how my mother managed to drive the truck during combining and still clean the house, make all the meals and serve them up in style.  

My mother was one of those fine old farm wives whose life revolved around her family.  When she passed away, in 2010, the grandchildren were doing a little reminiscing and decided to put their thoughts down and share it with the rest of the family.  I had pretty much forgotten about it until a neice reminded me.  Perhaps those that were privileged to grow up on a farm in a traditional family will also relate to these heartwarming, often humerous tidbits of real life. 

What really caught my attention was my mother's (and therefore, her grandchildren's) focus on food.   My mother's kitchen was always buzzing with activity and every meal was an occasion.  If you want to think in terms of sustainable food systems, my mother's table would be a fine example; pretty much everything on it came from just a few steps, in one direction or another, from our back door.  On our small family farm you found cattle, a small farrow to finish hog operation and 50 baby chicks arriving each spring.  As spring was filled with planting, summers will filled with tending livestock, crops and the  huge garden which provided us with fresh greens and vegetables throughout.  In the fall, produce was stored, canned, frozen, or dried and saw us through to the next growing season.

The grandchildren were right about desserts, home made candies and other treats. As kids, we anxiously waited for the wild saskatoons to ripen and held 'picking parties', with the fruits of our labour ushered into my mother's waiting kitchen, only to reappear in the form of pies.  I don't really recall a meal that didn't end with something sweet, usually preserved fruit but also ice cream dressed with homemade sauces. 

I think back on those days -- those fond, fond memories -- and am grateful for having been charmed with a lifestyle that we took for granted; and loved by parents that, at times, were also taken for granted.  At least I was fortunate enough to have role models that shared their love of the land along with their knowledge and desire to be self-sufficient.  They taught us the value, from both an economic and health perspective, of providing for ourselves.   I like to think I came from good stock.
What I find especially endearing is, regardless how her grandchildren may have snickered at my mother's penchance for a good meal and a tastey tidbit, there are several of them that need only look in the mirror where they may find a glimmer of their grandmother.  Suffice to say, there seems to be a goodly number of them that seem to to have inherited the 'baking gene'.  All of her grandchildren are quite mindful of where their food comes from.  I suspect part of that awareness stems from their very early exposure to fresh food.  Admit it, there is still nothing like the thrill of sneaking into gramma's garden to help yourself to a handful of fresh peas or raspberries.  Nor is there any replacement for the smell of an apple pie or hot buns just coming out of the oven.   
And with that, I give you, the recollections of my parents' grandchildren.  Perhaps something will bring a smile to your face,  or tug at a heartstring, just as it did mine. 

1. The Jellybean jar under the table which was never ever empty
2. Arguing with Grandpa “It is not Tommy!” “It is too then Gladys!”
3. Gramma “never cooked enough food” for family gatherings... despite there being a minimum of 2 meats, 3 vegetables and 3 desserts at any occasion
4. The extensive spoon collection in the case Grandpa made for her
5. How anything you said got twisted around like the “telephone” game, such as the time Dad was going to speak at the 'UN'
6. If you wanted to spread the word you just needed to make one call, that is if you could ever get past the busy signal on her phone
7. Always worrying and praying when anyone went on a trip, particularly on an airplane
8. That they planned to cut back on the garden every year but it just seemed to keep getting bigger
9. Basement pantry/aka bomb shelter, because you never knew when you might have an urgent need for filling for 24 cherry pies
10. Grandpa and Grandma’s special velour chairs, grandma’s was like a throne
11. Quacking duck stuffed animal that we all loved to annoy people with
12. The little baby doll hanging from Gramma's walker so she wouldn’t get it mixed up (geat grandchild Ayden always tried to steal it)
13. Came up with the “4th meal” concept before Taco Bell, we always had a late night lunch that usually involved a main course of bun sandwiches and several desert options
14. In the earlier years fancy shrimp cocktails and the “beloved” tomato aspic at Christmas
15. Hunting for kitten nests up in the hay shed
16. Rolling down the hill by the campfire
17. Going to Club Café for New Years and all other special occasions and being allowed to order Shirley Temples
18. Pink petunias in the planters that we loved to pull the dried up ones off of, and often the good ones too
19. The best creamy home made hot chocolate
20. 3 freezers stuffed full, one just for Gramma'sbaking
21. Watching The Wonderful World of Disney and later on MTV music videos while eating supper on TV trays in the TV room
22. Gramm always having her hair perfectly done with weekly appointments but still always being worried about how it looked or if the wind was messing it up
23. Being embarrassed if she was caught by company in curlers or her hair not done
24. Loved her clothes and always dressed to the nines with matching accessories
25. The most sparkly brooches, necklaces, earrings and rings you could find
26. Gramma never drank but she never wanted to miss the party...would always stay up as late as she could!! 
27. Christmas cookie making day
28. Very loud family gatherings
29. Playing Bocce ball in the yard
30. The wooden Christmas characters in the yard that Grampa made for Gramma
31. The BEST homemade buns hot out of the oven with butter (and being able to eat as many as you wanted!) and the smell of them when she had a “baking day”
32. Playing cards for hours (she could stay up later than us)
33. Gramma telling us we were cheating at cards if we were winning or when she lost, when she was usually the one actually cheating
34. Viva Puff cookies (those chocolate covered marshmallow ones) while playing cards
35. Writing recipes in a binder while watching the cooking shows on TV
36. Gramma always taped her "plays" (soap operas) on TV
37. Going for a visit before Christmas to help decorate the tree with Gramma and Grampa every year
38. Playing BINGO in the living room and Gramma would tell us to go and get the treat bag out of her closet for prizes...a HUGE paper grocery bag full of mini chocolate bars
39. Playing “Mother May I” and “Red Light Green Light” in the yard and getting peanuts or old Halloween candy out of the treat bag
40. Having campfires and singing (and always having lots of treats..hot chocolate, hotdogs, marshmallows, cowpie cookies, etc. that she would bring out on a tray)
41. Shelling peas on the deck
42. Picking raspberries
43. Gramma and Grandpa taking the grand kids to DQ and we got to have a LARGE ice cream cone (NEVER got that with mom!!)
44. Gramma and Dad (Ken) getting the giggles
45. When we were little Gramma and Grampa would take the grand kids to the Co-op cafeteria in the basement for lunch or a doughnut and chocolate milk.
46. All the amazing Christmas baking....cherry balls, peanut butter balls, fudge, chocolate covered pretzels, nuts & bolts, toffee squares, grasshopper squares
47. The BEST cook!!!
48. Home made Lemonade Summer drink
49. Really strong ice tea (Gramma kept a whole ice cream pail of ice tea powder beside the couch in the tv room)
50. Always had revels or ice cream and home made chocolate sauce for dessert...or both!
51. Baking with Gramma
52. Riding our bikes up to the farm in the summer to play cards when we were bored
53. Gramma and Grandpa walking down to our house for coffee with Nicky
54. Giving the dog bread with butter (cause they only liked it if it was buttered!)
55. The etch-a-sketch and linking bricks that were kept in the closet in the tv room
56. The house always being so hot and Gramma asking "is it cold in here?"
57. Butter and saltines as a snack
58. Making wontons
59. Making Christmas toffee and wrapping it together
60. Always easy to talk to, never an awkward silence with anyone
61. Always made way too much food
62. Favourite campfire tunes – Can’t Get to Heaven, Wildwood Flower, Amazing Grace
63. Getting mad when Grandpa sped up Amazing Grace after the first verse
64. Helping Gramma clean the house, and trying to keep up to her standards!
65. Had the best memory of anyone, right til the end
66. Making us beautiful needlepoint pictures
67. Making Nikki (the dog) “sing”
68. Gramma bragging about how good her kids and grandkids were
69. Gramma nagging on Grampa (I think that’s how she showed she loved him)
70. Gramma's flower gardens and teaching us the names of the flowers
71. Two weeks ago telling my 31 week preggo self that I “still wasn’t too fat”
72. Gramma claiming she “rarely takes dessert”
73. Loving a DQ dipped cone for a treat (even though she rarely took dessert )
74. Affectionately calling all her loved ones 'Dough Ass'
75. She taught her grand kids how to make lemonade mix and apple dumplings
76. She always let us have dessert after every meal
77. Gramma made the best banana splits
78. She let us eat all the bridge mix we wanted
79. Listening to Gramma playing ‘How Great Thou Art’ and other hymns on the piano and listening to her sing while she played, until she realized you were listening to her
80. Watching soaps with her in the TV room and getting self defence lessons
81. Singing together in the car
82. Trips to Pine Lake for ice cream
83. Making us eat pork and beans before we could go camping in the trailer
84. Teaching how to stitch
85. Gramma made the best gravy
86. She let me us try on all of her jewelry anytime we wanted
87. If you worked more than 20 minutes without an iced tea/lemonade break, you were working much too hard, much to Grandpa's disapproval
88. If you didn't have thirds or fourths at dinner there was no other reason than you were dieting.
89. If you ever lost any weight at all, you must be sick and needed to eat something.
90. Gramma was the only one who wasn't afraid to tell Grandpa off, and did it quite regularly
91. She always stood by the fact that Jed was a very smart dog, even if others disagreed. The same can be said about her grandchildren
92. How much Gramma loved listening to us play guitar and have sing alongs
93. Gramma's laugh... and listening to her and Dad/Brenda/Heather joking with each other and working themselves up until they were all crying
94. The lemon gin story, and her continuing to get more and more drunk from water
95. Going up to set Gramma's VCR so she wouldn't miss her "stories"
96. The little jar of candies in the car and the first thing Gramma did when you got in was offer you one.
97. Just talking to Gramma, and her love for conversation. You never had to worry about being the one to carry the conversation

and, most importantly

98. “People may not remember what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel”. …You always felt like Gramma was absolutely thrilled to see you, would remember everything you told her; was always so proud of you and that she loved you deeply.

What better tribute could there possibly be?